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Shoulders of giants

Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)

The International Workers’ Day is not like any other day. It is a special day, a day of celebration. We celebrate what we have achieved together, we celebrate the talents and fortitude of all the people who, day in day out, get out of their homes and go to work. We also celebrate the work we have done to get to where we are.

We do this because we are proud citizens of a country that gives everyone a future and a chance to work.

We have a lot to be proud of . Malta, with its resilient, determined and compassionate workers, overcame all the challenges which it had to face, including a global pandemic of huge proportions, and saw in its fold the various communities growing together and moving forward.

We can stand proudly on our two feet because we had leaders who over the years had the courage to improve working conditions and ensure fair labour laws. They introduced revolutionary concepts like the minimum wage – concepts which are still alien in other countries which form part of the G7s of this world. Our forefathers worked hard to create, out of nothingness and adversity, an environment where all workers could feel appreciated, supported, and safe.

Fastforward to present day Malta. I am personally very proud to have worked with my colleagues every single day for the past ten years plus in respective Labour Cabinets to keep creating more and more opportunities for our workers. Success did not come about on its own, but as a result of hard work and by having the courage to implement measures such as the increment in minimum wage, the provision of free childcare for all, the introduction of new parental leave rights, and the development of novel systems that allow employees to balance family and work life better.

I am proud that every day over the past ten years, we have worked together to boost the economy to record levels. This successful economic record provided tens of thousands of new jobs every year. The results have been so positive that workers from abroad were attracted to Malta and relocated here to fill in the huge gaps that resulted following the extraordinary demand for employees.

Put simply, Malta is currently home to the largest amount of workers ever throughout its history. This is why on the 1st of May we should all be proud of what we have achieved together.

What’s more Malta has, in the past year, recuperated and relaunched its economy swifter and faster than was expected post-pandemic. In all truth, we exceeded everyone’s expectations and it is clear that the decision that the Government took to support more than 100,000 workers during COVID reaped fantastic benefits.

We are determined to do all it takes to keep bolstering job creation and to see the economy moving forward. Case in point is the financial assistance we are putting in, as a Government, to keep energy prices stable. The Opposition is in strong disagreement with us on this and it believes that the increments in utility prices should be born directly by the consumers.

We have a lot to be proud of also in terms of the new opportunities we have created in the cultural sector. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the future depends on what you do today and we can safely state that in this sector we were and are future-proof and fully prepared to be one step ahead all the time. We now have a beautiful and strong ecosystem of creativity where our artistis are excelling and achieving satisfying careers. The private sector in this field thrives and progresses.

A lot of work has been done to bolster the public culture organisations and also the conditions of work of the employees in the various entities.

For instance, in a matter of a few weeks we signed three distinct collective agreements where we improved the conditions of the cultural professionals working within the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Archives, and Cultural Heritage Superintendence. We truly believe in our creatives.

Talent is what our country needs to keep going from strength to strength. And talent lies in human capital. That is why our workers are the key to our success in the years ahead. Let us focus on the cultivation of a culture of innovation and creativity, of upskilling, let us strengthen the structures, training, resources, and access to new technologies so that we can shape our tomorrow, starting today.

The future of our country is the future of our workers, and the future of our workers is the future of our country. We are proud for what we achieved together but we are hungry for more. We are determined, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Robert Abela, to continue to create a new period of prosperity. We are all together. We stand as one.


In 1958, Malta was a British colony and the political situation was tense. The Labour government, which had been elected in 1955 following five long years of political instability, had at the time been pushing for more autonomy for Malta and was seeking to renegotiate its relationship with Britain. However, negotiations broke down and the Labour government resigned on 27 April 1958.

The firebrand socialist Dom Mintoff, who won the elections with his rallying cry of Intergration or self-determination, at first wanted Malta to be fully integrated with the United Kingdom so that the Maltese would, overnight, start enjoying better rights and live at equal level with the English people.

Yet, these pro-integration talks broke down and Mr Mintoff immediately started pushing towards Malta’s independence and freedom. Mr Mintoff pushed hard on the financial assistance he expected to receive from the British Empire in order to be able to construct a fully fledged Maltese economy and social services structure.

When push came to shove, the two political giants at the time – Dom Mintoff on the one side and Giorgio Borg Olivier on the other, gave each other support for the unanimous passing of the historic Break with Britain resolution. The Maltese Parliament, through the passing of that resolution, showed the proverbial middle finger to the colonisers of the time.

Large riots by the Maltese people ensued on April 28, 1958. Many were arrested, including Labour Ministers Bertu Hyzler and Agatha Barbara. Of course Agti, many years later, went on to become the first female President of Malta.

The British authorities responded with force, using tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters. The riots continued for several days, with many injuries and arrests. The unrest ultimately led to a state of emergency being declared in Malta, and it marked a turning point in the relationship between Malta and Britain.

In the aftermath of the riots, the British government began to take Maltese demands for more autonomy more seriously. The “Bloody” Constitution ensued in 1961 and then full independence was obtained in 1964.

I believe that the events of 1958 were a significant turning point in the country's history. The Maltese people had been living under British rule for over a century, and there was growing frustration and resentment over the lack of autonomy and independence.

Despite the use of force by the British authorities to suppress the riots, the Maltese people remained determined to fight for their rights and demand greater autonomy. The protests and riots brought international attention to the situation in Malta and put pressure on the British government to negotiate with the Maltese people.

The country's resilience and perseverance during this time played a crucial role in shaping its future. The events of 1958 showed that the Maltese people were willing to fight for their rights and were not afraid to stand up.

Malta underwent significant social, economic, and political changes, and today it is a thriving democracy and member of the European Union. The events of 1958 are remembered as a significant moment in the country's history, marking the beginning of a new era of independence and freedom for the Maltese people.

The importance of Malta's history and the struggles that the Maltese people have faced in their quest for independence and freedom should never be minimised. We should honor the past while looking towards the future and building a better tomorrow.

Truly, we stand on the shoulders of giants.


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